Till a loudmouth of the saffron party in Tamil Nadu played it up, a majority in the state didn’t even think about whether their cine hero had a first name. He is Joseph Vijay, specified BJP’s H. Raja about the 43-year-old star, who had rarely proclaimed his Christian identity in public or through his movies. Only his letterhead reveals the full name. In film after film, Vijay has actually looked very comfortable playing the devout god-fearing Hindu villager, including in his latest Mersal.
Like Vijay, thousands of Christians in Tamil Nadu, particularly the Catholics, have no compunction in being associated with Hindu religious practices. Many incorporate them into their own worship of Jesus or Mary. Take, for instance, Sunitha. The young Chennaiite nervously tied the taali (yellow ‘mangalsutra’) around the white grill in front of the statue of Mother Mary in her city’s Velankanni church in Besantnagar. Her fists clasped in a tight grip and eyes closed, she prayed intensely for a couple of minutes before doing the cross sign even as her boyfriend looked on.
“We have been wanting to marry for two years, but there is opposition from both sides even though both of us are Catholics,” Sunitha says. It was then that a close relative suggested tying the taali before Annai Maria could fulfil her wish. Just as she and her friend walked into the church, another couple brought a small toy cradle, bought from the shop at the church entrance, and tied it to the same white grill. Their prayer: to have a child.